"The Joy of the Gospel"

Pope Francis's The Joy of the Gospel is a unique and remarkable document. Presented as an apostolic exhortation, it has been called a manifesto of his papacy. Its down-to-earth, colloquial style sets it apart from other papal documents. Pope Francis writes in a way that can leave readers feeling that he is speaking directly to them, much as any good pastor would speak to his people.

Pope Francis pursues an agenda that goes to the heart of our faith: "In this Exhortation, I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy [of the Gospel], while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey in the years to come." It's all about the good news of Jesus Christ, which is a gift and an urgent responsibility both for persons and for the church itself—at all levels. This is the most important thing to remember when you read this document.

With respect to persons, Pope Francis's encourages all Christians to turn anew to the Lord, so that he can transform us ever more fully into the friends, disciples, and servants that he wishes us to be. Those who are ready and willing to do this will find themselves changed in the process. They will know the joy of the Gospel and be eager to share it with others. People don't keep good news to themselves!

When he considers the church, Pope Francis knows that all of its structures, norms, practices, and ways of thinking are to serve the Gospel, and especially its proclamation by word and deed. The church needs to be continually transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ no less than persons do. The Gospel is meant to bring joy to the church, and prompt it to proclaim Jesus Christ to its own members as well as to others.

Once we appreciate the grace and promise, power and claim of Jesus Christ in this way, an urgent agenda of transformation comes into view. Whatever obscures or takes priority over the Gospel or makes it comfortable has to be named and tackled specifically and concretely. This accounts for two major currents in The Joy of the Gospel.

The first addresses the priority of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The problem is that, through no fault of theirs, many Catholics have never considered that their faith is to be based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that this relationship is to govern the entirety of their lives. The second current concerns institutional arrangements in the Catholic Church at all levels, particularly the need for them to be subordinate to the Gospel and effectively support its proclamation and reception. The problem is that many structures, attitudes, ways of thinking, and inherited practices in the church have become stale or worse. Unserviceable or obsolete arrangements tend to obscure the centrality of Christ, disarm the radical power of his Gospel, and get priorities mixed up.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same as it has always been, yet for succeeding generations and different situations it is to be ever fresh and new. In other words, the Gospel has an inner capacity to reach hearts—ours and everyone else's—and set them on fire with Christ's love, a love that overflows into community, worship, service, and proclamation. It wants to do the same things with respect to the church. Pope Francis calls for action on those things in the church that prevent the Gospel from coming across as fresh, radical, life-giving, and life-changing for us and the rest of the human family in the early 21st century. Keep that in mind as you read this document, and you'll get what Pope Francis is saying and doing.

In calling us back to Christ and insisting that church institutions and practices are to serve the proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed, Pope Francis has done us all a great service. May your reading of The Joy of the Gospel be an occasion of grace for you. Above all, may it help you to know the Lord more personally and serve him more generously in a church community that does the same.

Walter J. Woods, STD


Other Resources

The Web has many resources for those who wish to learn more about their faith, official documents, Catholic teachings, or prayer.  There are also blogs and sources for reference and current events, and much more. Here are some links that you might find helpful.

Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis to USA, 2015
Wednesday, Sept. 23
Comments at White House Welcoming Ceremony
Address to Bishops of USA (St. Matthew's Cathedral, Washington)
Homily at J. Serra Canonization Mass (St. Matthew's Cathedral) 
Thursday, Sept. 24
Address to Joint Session of Congress (Washington)
Address at Meeting with Homeless Persons (St. Patrick's Parish, Washington)
Homily at Vespers Service (St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York)
Friday, Sept. 25
Greeting to Personnel of United Nations (New York)
Address to General Assembly of United Nations (New York)
Address at Ground Zero (New York)
Address to Children and Immigrants (O.L. Queen of Angels Parish, Harlem)
Homily at Mass (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Saturday, Sept. 26
Homily at Mass (Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul, Philadelphia)
Address at Meeting for Religious Liberty (Philadelphia)
Address at Prayer Vigil, Festival of Families (Philadelphia)
Sunday, Sept. 27
Address at Meeting with Victims of Abuse (Philadelphia)
Address to Bishops at World Meeting of Families (Philadelphia)
Address to Detainees at Correctional Facility (Philadelphia)
Homily at Closing Mass, World Meeting of Families (Philadelphia)
Address to Organizers, Volunteers, & Benefactors (Philadelphia)
Transcript of Discussion with Press (En Route from USA to Rome)

Documents and Other Resources of Pope Francis
Interview with Pope Francis
Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (11/2013 - See Helpful Resources)
Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si' (6/2015)
Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, on the Year of Mercy (4/2015)
Address to Popular Movements (Bolivia, 7/2015)
Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love (3/2016)
TED talk by Pope Francis (4/2017)

The extraordinary Aparecida Concluding Document (5/2007), is reflected in much of Pope Francis's ministry.

Readings and Homilies
26th Sunday Ord Time (A), Oct. 1, 2017, Readings, homily  
27th Sunday Ord Time (A), Oct. 8, 2017, Readings, homily  
29th Sunday Ord Time (A), Oct. 22, 2017, Readings, homily  
30th Sunday Ord Time (A), Oct. 29, 2017, Readings, homily   
31st Sunday Ord Time (A), Nov. 5, 2017, Readings, homily   
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2017, Readings, homily  
Holy Family (B), Dec. 31, 2017, Readings, homily  
Epiphany (B), Jan. 7, 2018, Readings, homily   
Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018, Readings, homily
2nd Sunday of Easter (B), April 8, 2018, Readings, homily  
5th Sunday of Easter (B), April 30, 2018, Readings, homily
6th Sunday of Easter (B), May 6, 2018, Readings, homily  
7th Sunday of Easter (B), May 13, 2018, Readings, homily   


Toward mission-based parishes: 
Recommended reading
Presentation: the mission of our parishes (9/14/2016),
Town Meeting of 9/11/2017. 
Collaborative Pastoral Plan

Other Documents and Resources
The Archdiocese of Boston
Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Consultation 2012
The Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Web Site
Disciples in Mission pastoral plan, Approved 11/15/2012
Pastoral Plan Committee Report, 5/2007
The Boston Pilot 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 

Catholic News Service

American Catholic.org
Church and Mass Locator

The Documents of Vatican II
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Holy See 
The Roman Missal, 3rd Ed. 

Scripture Readings of the Day
Reflections on the Sunday Readings
A Searchable Bible 
Understanding the Bible

Sacred Space: Daily Prayer
Daily Reflections 

For Spiritual Seekers
For Young Adults
Since You Asked
Children learn to pray

Cardinal Sean's Blog
Fr. Austin Fleming's Blog
Rocco Palmo's Whispers in the Loggia






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